Excluding large hydroelectric projects, the recent development will result in a 1.8GW energy capacity from solar, wind, and geothermal sources.
While China’s 11.3 GW capacity growth may dwarf Africa’s new developments, 1.8 GW will be an important step in the right direction for the continent that has lagged so far behind in the renewable energy race for a number of years.
Historically, African governments have tended towards cheaper and dirtier fossil fuel based power, and have scarcely considered much on the renewable energy front. Also, with fears of corruption and poor governance, investors have been reluctant to provide financial assistance to kickstart an African energy shift.
But with the number of Africans lacking a reliable electricity supply sitting at 70% of the population, attitudes surrounding the best way to power Africa are finally transforming. Solar and wind costs have dropped considerably in the last few years and investors are now beginning to consider the stunning hydropower, geothermal, wind, and solar potential that the continent has to offer.
According to the RTCC, “clean energy investment in sub-Saharan Africa could rise from US$5.9 billion in 2014 to $7.7 billion in 2016…The World Bank has already pledged US$5billion for African energy investment through President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative, with a large percentage of this expected to come from renewables.” (tcktcktck.org). Leading this charge are South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia, which are expected to produce 3.9GW, 1.4GW and 570MW this year, respectively.
“South Africa has pledged to install 8.4GW of solar photovoltaic capacity by 2030, and it has already secured significant financing towards this goal. A €75 million loan was recently secured by the European Investment Bank for a 100MW Solar Power Plant in the Northern Cape Province, owned by Spanish company Abengoa Solar.” (tcktcktck.org)
Kenya also plans to install 1700MW of geothermal capacity within the next 10 years, this monumental campaign would serve as 150% of the country’s total electricity generation capacity. The nation also recently was given US $650 million of finance from the African Development bank to potentially create a 310MW wind farm on Lake Turkana. When completed, the project would be the largest on the continent.
However, such large renewable electricity projects require the support of an efficient economic infrastructure- one that is currently lacking in much of Africa. World Council for Renewable Energy Chairman Preben Maegaard suggests that the anticipation for renewable energy to be the shining light for poverty alleviation in Africa is “folly”, with too many of the renewable energy projects of the last 20 years having failed.
The renewable energy transition will require a huge effort from many African countries but it will be necessary in order to restore the continent’s economic and environmental vibrancy.